The CDC says that improper storage and handling cause significant loss each year due to ruined vaccines, leaving medical facilities to repurchase vaccines, and in many patients having to be re-vaccinated. Here are some of the pitfalls that exist in vaccine storage and how to avoid them.
Household or “dorm-style” refrigeration units are prohibited for the storage of vaccines. This is because they are not good in maintaining consistent internal temperatures. Only pharmaceutical-grade units, equipped with fan-driven air circulation or cold air vents should be used. The purpose of these units are to maintain the required temperature for vaccines, as well as ensure a fast temperature recovery after warm air has entered the cold storage unit.
Freezing is by far the most devastating issue, especially to the potency of a vaccine, and usually renders them completely useless. Vaccines should be stored at a consistent temperature between 36 and 46 degrees F, and the CDC recommends using a temperature monitoring device to alert you if the temperature of your cold storage unit drops below this.
Always dispose of expired or damaged vaccines. Failure to do so contributes to a disorganized environment in your lab that could result in someone receiving a bad vaccine. Expired vaccines also take up space in your cold storage unit, and will hinder airflow, causing the rest of the vaccines to not reach proper temp.
Supply Chain Temperatures
Any staff receiving vaccine shipments should be trained to inspect and properly place the vaccines into their proper cold storage unit right away. Vaccines should be unpacked before placement in the cold storage unit. This is because the packaging that keeps the vaccines at proper temp may cause them to be too cold in the cold storage unit.
Murphy’s law states it. Power failures and cold storage unit malfunctions can ruin vaccines. Backup generators are essential to keep vaccines at a proper temp during a power failure. Temperature monitoring will give you valuable time during any such situation so that you can keep your vaccines at the proper temp.
Temperature depends on the ability of air to circulate in your cold storage unit. Issues such as overloading cold storage units will cause temperature instability. The proper size cold storage solution is essential, and each vaccine should have space in-between to allow for airflow.
Cold storage units, as well as temperature monitoring devices, need regular inspections and maintenance in order to operate properly. Cleaning is also very important in the effectiveness of these units, and all parts should stay free of mold, build-up, or any other debris.